Gun Store Etiquette – A Safety Reminder

I have worked in the firearms industry for some time now.  I have also worked retail firearms, and have immediate family that still does.  I know that it seems to always escape people, but firearms are not toys and should be treated safely and with respect. But there are some people out there that don’t understand that concept.

During a visit this afternoon to my local store, a guy in his early 20’s walked in.  He immediately began talking loudly about a rifle on the all and that is what he does for work.  He also started flashing his military ID around to everyone that would look. He then proceeded to pull his pistol out, waving it around while asking about a holster for it.

He then unloaded the handgun, muzzling the guy at the counter in the process.  Shoving the handgun into a few holsters he decided none would work, reloaded his handgun and happened to muzzle me behind him while re-holstering.  While I agree the employee could have said something to begin with, the blame also falls on the patron that thought his actions were OK.

I have never been one to be silent when it comes to firearms safety.  We are all safety officers out on the range and anywhere else firearms are being handled.  I took the time to tell the guy in a firm tone that there are other people around and that he pointed a loaded handgun at me while haphazardly attempting to find his holster.

While I know that people are sometimes excited to show something off, or think that because it’s a gun store so the rules apply less.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I once had a firearms instructor that would always politely remind shooters on the line that “If you point a gun at me, I will surmise you mean me harm and will respond accordingly and in kind.”

So, just a friendly reminder to people out there.  If you walk into a store with a holstered handgun, leave it there.  If you must take it out for some reason, ask an employee if it is OK to remove your handgun from the holster or case and safely clear it if necessary.  One thing I always to try to think of is what my actions might look like to someone else. While your actions might have good intentions, it might not look that way to someone else.  We all are responsible for firearms safety and the future of the sport. Please help keep things safe, and if you see something unsafe, say something.


  • JumpIf NotZero

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m SOOO glad there is an internet so that the only time I have to step foot in a gun store is when I do a pickup/transfer.

    Safety on either side of the counter has nothing to do with my feelings toward gun stores 🙂

    • bobsburgers

      that my friend is true since ive found this website I no longer go into a gun shop to look around I go in to see if they have the gun I want

  • bobsburgers

    I like the fact that you guys not only shows us about guns but try and help remind us about gun safety thank you guns keep up the good work

  • ricky578
    • bobsburgers

      no that would suck but by watching a few gun show videos ive noticed that most of those guys just read the tag on the gun and then say it to the camera

    • bobsburgers

      juse seen the link my thoughts on tha twhy is the gun loaded?????????

    • There was a ND recently at a local show. Was a whole cascading set of failures to clear the rifle properly, to include the show personnel at the door that tied the action. Can happen to anyone.

      • An Interested Person

        I had that happen at a gun show I was at sometime a year or two ago. Some friend of a dealer brought a “unloaded” .22 onto the floor, somehow bypassing a safety check, and some kid picked it up and pulled the trigger. Oops.

        Thankfully nobody was hurt, but the guy who brought it in got arrested and the dealer was shut down.

  • flyingburgers

    I’m always aware of what I’m doing in gun stores, even when I’m not handling a gun. I remember a few years ago, I was in one waiting for some paperwork, so I pulled out my BlackBerry. This was before the days of the iPhone, and back then BlackBerries were all plastic and came with a plastic belt holster that made a satisfying slide and click. I reach under my shirt, pull it out and I look up to realize the guys behind the counter had stopped and had been looking at my hands to see what I was doing.

  • Cymond

    The most blatant disregard of safety I ever saw was during a vacation with friends. My friend’s boyfriend whipped out a revolver, swept it across the entire room (muzzling me), cocked the hammer, pointed it at his friend, and pulled the trigger!!

    Yeah, sure, it was an unloaded muzzleloading single-action, but it violated Rule #1, #2, #3, and probably any other Rule you can imagine.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Oh, that would not have gone well for me or him. I would have taken it from him and beat him with it. The thing some people need, it to have things beat into them. Not often, but definitely sometimes…

  • I was in a gun store once upon a time when some guy came in with a 1911 he knew nothing about. He stood right next to me and was asking questions while handling the pistol. Long story short it was loaded and he fired a round into the glass case blowing it up and bouncing the round off of a S&W 686 (brand new). He dropped the gun of course and reached down to pick it up once the shock wore off. I stopped that and picked it up myself and cleared it while the gun shop owner is chewing his backside. You just never know—–

    • Rey

      Cringe story of the day!

      • It got my attention for certain. The spent round ended up going through the back of the counter and stuck in a box of shotgun shells on a shelf behind the counter.

        • John Dalton

          A little off topic but WTH, do you think there should be some sort of minimal mandatory training with a firearms purchase?

          • El Duderino

            No because that’s turning a right into a privilege. More than it already is. There are idiot drivers and they’re required to take a test. So don’t give up your rights for some perceived “safety” that idiots will ignore because…they’re stupid.

          • I think someone with no experience should have the sense to take a course before buying a handgun at least do that. Mandatory no I can’t go there it opens to many doors we don’t want opened.

          • BigBlueHI

            We have mandatory training required here (Hawaii). While we certainly have our share of pointless gun laws, I honestly don’t believe that’s one.

            I can say from the ground here – as a practical matter it is not a significant barrier to entry beause A) It is both publicly and privately offered at minimal cost and B) For predominantly urban/suburban societies, it makes sense. Most people don’t grow up with guns as in the rural communities of time past and have no clue how to operate firearms properly (unless you count video games and movies). Even for those that do, a few hours of your life learning more about safely handling firearms is not a bad thing – even if you grew up with them you may have bad habits. The course I took combined learning about hunting as well and was a great use of my time.

            Mandatory training and licensing is NOT the same thing, so a driver’s license is not a good analogy, it’s more like being required to attend a safe driving seminar before getting behind the wheel. It’s easy to make simplistic comments about ‘unfettered rights vs privileges’, but in reality there already are lots of constraints on those rights (e.g. felons and firearms) which just make sense, even if they’re not in the Constitution.

    • C.

      I can’t even begin to imagine how loud it must have been when the 1911 went off.

    • Dan

      he should have 1) been arrested, 2) forced to pay for the glass case and the 686.

      • I guess I could have come up with something to arrest him for but by the time the shop owner and myself got through counseling him it just didn’t seem fair. No statute for stupid!
        He did pay for the damages—-

  • Thank you, sir. Too many people think the 4 rules are for the range only. No, they are for everywhere and anytime.

    • That’s for sure!

    • I find this to be a problem a lot… There seems to be a lot of people that think that the rules only apply to ranges. But then again, I have had other problems at ranges. Not sure how many times I have looked down the muzzle of a rifle. My personal favorite is people handling guns during a cold range, with people down hanging targets. I see so many things like that every time I go to the range I have resorted to always wearing body armor when I am shooting.

  • Bill

    I feel safer in the worst places in town than in the average gunstore or range. I just about peed over the weekend while in a big name store – a clerk is telling a potential customer about his decades of experience as a cop while nonchalantly muzzling me up, granted not for long, because I get out of the way right quick when somebody points a gun at me.

    • I was in a box store where an employee was helping a customer with a holster. When she was done she put the mag back in the glock, dropped the slide and put the gun under her arm (pointed right at me behind her) and pulled the trigger. I don’t think I have ever lost my mind quite like that. So much so, the GM of the store came down from his office to apologize for his idiot employee. He didn’t seem to understand that I very well could have shot her for what she did. The worst part is… She still works there 3 years later…

  • 33AD

    Amen. Just as unacceptable when it is on the employee side if the counter.

  • Blake

    Some of the stories in the comments here are as good as the article!

    Keep ’em comin’, folks!

  • Blake

    The most “interesting” firearms experience I’ve had was on an annual family dove hunt many many years ago. Probably about 20 family & friends on a farm in the middle of nowhere, mostly cornfields & pastures.

    My father & I are walking up a hill towards the rest of the group, who is on the other side of a cornfield. The corn is just low enough to see a person on the other side, maybe head & top of shoulders.

    A cousin of mine had dropped a dove over the cornfield & sent his dog in to retrieve it. Turns out the dove isn’t dead so the dove flushes when the dog reaches it. My cousin sees the dove flush instantly, raises his 12-gauge, & anchors the dove when it’s about a yard over the top of the corn.

    My dad & I both saw the dove & the shotgun coming up & hit the deck instantly (dunno where I learned that reflex from but I suspect it’s instinct from years of my father teaching me to fear & respect the business end of firearms), & we heard the shot go flying overhead.

    It was far too long ago to recall the comments my father made to my cousin afterwards, but I imagine it was something along the lines of “there isn’t much meat on us, & we’re too big for your dog to drag home anyway”.

  • Drew

    One of the reasons why I like my preferred range/LGS so much is that they DO NOT tolerate stuff like that. They’re polite about it, unless you repeatedly screw up and/or give them attitude. I rented a shotgun from them once, and as I was setting up my lane, the Range Officer came over and very politely asked if I wouldn’t mind turning the shotgun around. Turns out I’d set it down on the bench with the muzzle pointing back into the firing line area. I apologized and immediately corrected my mistake, RO thanked me and went on his way, no problems

    On the other hand, another time I was there, the guy in the lane next to me was “teaching” his girlfriend how to shoot. I look over, and the guy’s talking to his girlfriend. He’s has is back to the firing line, and his Glock is in his hand, slide forward, finger on the trigger… pointed right at me. I lean back around the divider and asked him, very politely, to not point the gun at me and to keep the muzzle downrange. Both he and he girlfriend gave me looks that plainly said I should go f*** myself before resuming their conversation. I didn’t even have a chance to step away from my lane before the Range Officer comes charging over. He chewed them out, told them that it was the second time he had to talk to them in less than five minutes (I missed the first time) and kicked them off the range. They gave him some serious attitude in return, so long story short both are now banned from the gun store and range for life.

    Another incident, this time in the store itself: a little ol’ lady comes in with a shoebox. She got a counter guy to help her, then set the box on the counter, opened it up, and pulled out an old revolver. Spanish copy of a S&W I-Frame, I think it was. Anyway, she pulls it out, finger on the trigger, and starts waving it around, muzzling everyone behind the counter. Counter guy immediately tells her to put the gun on the counter. She says it’s fine. Counter guy said, and I quote: “Ma’am, not it’s not. I can see that gun is loaded.” She says, and again I quote “I know. I couldn’t figure out how to get the bullets out.”

    Everyone behind the counter immediately froze.

    To make a long, rambling story short, she and a lady friend of hers were cleaning out an old dresser in her house and discovered the revolver. And of course her first reaction was to point it at her friend and pretend to shoot her. The two of them fake-shot at things for a few minutes before one of them looked down the muzzle and realized “hey, those look like bullets.” They took the gun outside and tried to unload it, but couldn’t figure out how to open the cylinder, and wound up putting a round into a fence post.

    They guys behind the counter tried to explain the Four Rules to her, but you could watch what they were saying alternate between going in one ear and out the other and straight over her head. The scariest part: she wanted to buy ammo for it because she wanted to keep it for home defense. Fortunately, all of the cartridges in the gun were badly corroded and not safe to fire (by some miracle, the one good cartridge was the one she’d had the ND with), and the gun was chambered for an archaic caliber (.32 S&W Short, I think) that the store didn’t stock, is darn near impossible to find online, and is ludicrously expensive when you do.

    I swear, some people are so stupid that I wonder how they survived childhood.

    • Bill

      There should be a law prohibiting spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends/parents from teach their significant other how to shoot. There is nothing about shooting experience that prepares someone to instruct. Furthermore, you have that weird relationship dynamic that’s going to interfere.

      • Chainsawferret

        I taught my wife-but she’s highly intelligent, I was patient, went over the rules with her and taught the basic operation before we even went to the range, with the gun not only unloaded but no ammo in the house at the time. So of course, now she shoots better than I do.

  • gunslinger

    common sense isn’t all that common..

    • Bill


  • Shifty Bitwise

    Not a gun store story but similar.

    In basic training on the M60 range, the damn thing jammed ( they tended to do that). We were told SPECIFICALLY not to clear it rather to raise our arms like were being held up and a DI will come and clear it for us. Well, me and my buddy held our hands in the air like we just don’t care. The DI was a real bastard , he came all huffy and puffy, yanked the butt at a 45 degree angle, and for reasons I still can’t explain, pulled and released the charging handle with the trigger pulled. Well…KABOOM! Right in the dirt next to my head. My ears were still ringing when that asshole hit me in the tin pot with the range paddle. As if it were MY fault.

    We all hated that guy.

    • He needed an article 15 at least!

      • Shifty Bitwise

        Well, this was Ft Jackson in 1986. The DIs had a real “old boy” network going. They wouldn’t think twice about punching you in the guts when no one was looking. We were all recruits <=E3 and scared shitless most of the time. They had a female E5 DI that left her rifle in her car after weapon check in ( this is a GIANT NO NO )….nothing happened. She was a real piece of work/man hater. She thought nothing of humiliating male soldiers.

    • mcducky

      During Basic training at Fort Know in 1971, the recruit next to me was firing his M16 in the kneeling position. It was a very hot day and his shirt was unbuttoned. A hot shell casing was ejected right down his shirt. He jumped up holding the M16 by the left hand, finger on the trigger, spun around and shot a DI right through the brim of his Smokey the Bear hat! Missed hus head by ~an inch.

      All the permanent party and DI’s were armed and converged on that recruit like madmen. Once they figured out it was accidental they calmed down and hustled the poor guy away. Range day then continued on as normal and by the time we marched back to barracks, the recruit was packed up and gone…

    • Joshua Madoc

      Please tell me not all DIs are that horribly incompetent and adamant on being blameless.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    I’m lucky enough to live in a small town in a county with a long and healthy firearms tradition and culture, and more importantly, a real general acceptance and consideration for other human beings. This translates into safety-oriented behaviour covering firearms usage and handling. For example, at my local FFL dealer’s store, it is an unwritten rule that any gun being brought into the store for whatever reason must be unloaded with the magazine preferably removed, and that includes CCW permit holders ( we have yet to see anyone contravene this rule ). There are no exceptions. The staff at the store will, in an unobtrusive and diplomatic way, also double-check the weapons in question to ensure something has not been inadvertantly overlooked. Most regular customers at the store will, in fact, simply leave their firearms outside, locked in their vehicles, before coming in, unless they have a specific reason to bring said firearms in. The same practices and ethics hold true for other facilities and stores in the county, our local Wal-Mart included ( to their credit, they have a very competent and knowledgeable staff in the firearms section ). I fully understand that the social circumstances in our county are perhaps unique in their own way and therefore help engender respect and safe thinking when it comes to firearms, but I see no reason why this same cannot be practiced elsewhere. It is a matter of education, common sense and inculcation.

  • jamezb

    All I can say, is “been there”, and “couldn’t agree more” – If I were to add a couple more suggestions from “behind the counter” they would be, :
    1) Although this is a gun store, and we expect customers to come inside carrying a gun, we prefer, for your safety and ours, that you remove the magazine and open the action before entering, and that you carry your gun (if not in a case) in some other manner than “ready for use”. Carry your AR by the carry handle or by the fore end muzzle up or down, Carry your rifle or shotgun in a similar manner. DA revolver? Open the cylinder and carry it by the top strap. SA revolver? grasp it around the cylinder. Automatic Pistol? Lock your slide open on a empty mag or remove the mag if it won’t lock open,,,carry it by the slide. Consider that we are armed, and when we see someone heading in the door holding a weapon in a “ready to use” position, that we go on “full alert”, so to speak.
    2) second, While I would be glad to hand you whatever gun you are interested in seeing, Please treat it and me with common respect. I expect you to want to line up the sights. please line them up pointing in a safe direction, (our shop had a deer head and mounted duck high on the wall for customers to aim at.) Please do not aim at people across the street at the hair dressers boutique. Please exercise trigger discipline. Yes, the gun I handed you is supposed to be unloaded – did you notice me opening the action before I handed it to you? that was a matter of store policy, but regardless, if you maintain trigger discipline regardless, you earn my respect.
    3) Lastly, please ask me if you may cycle the action or dry fire, or field strip the weapon before doing so…. 99 out of 100 times, I won’t have any problem with that request, but if the gun in question is very old, very rare, or very expensive, I might rather you did not.

  • usmcmailman

    Many people who own firearms have no clue about the business end of their gun!
    Advice for them………GET SOME TRAINING MORON !

  • jackalo626

    This article preaches to the choir. Casual gun owners and guys like the one in the story don’t read gun blogs. Though I commend the notion, I don’t feel it falls on the needed ears.

  • RPK

    Not all military personnel conduct themselves in this manner. I am pleased you had the steel to correct this young military member, as most would not have done so. The majority of seasoned military personnel make it a point to downplay a connection with the armed forces and would not flash an ID Card or brag up their exploits. This is both common sense and an OPSEC/COMSEC practice. Althouhg not a valid excuse, maybe this young man was new to the military, but I assure you that firearms safety is STRESSED in the armed forces.

  • Jenny Everywhere

    I was at a local range, and some idiot had some rifle he had picked up somewhere, possibly surplus. He tried to fire it and it jammed or had some sort of malf, so what does he do? He reverses it and starts looking DOWN THE BARREL, clacking at the trigger! Needless to say, my friend and I, who were watching him do this from a room behind him (separated by a glass window), dropped to the floor and screamed for a range officer.

    • BigBlueHI

      Sounds like a frontrunner for a Darwin award.